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Staff survey on legislative influence

Wednesday, Jun 28, 2006

State Legislatures Magazine recently completed a survey of legislative staffs across the nation. Karl Kurtz at NCSL’s blog The Thicket gives us a preview.

One of the questions we asked was, on a scale of 1-no influence to 7-dictates policy, “What do you think is the relative influence of the following participants in the legislative process in determining legislative outcomes in your state?” Of the 11 choices that we gave our 1,522 respondents to the survey, majority party leadership ranked far and away the highest with a score of 5.9.

Also scoring 5 or more were the senate (5.2), the house (5.1), the governor (5.0) and committee chairs (5.0). These four scores are so close that they can be considered to be equal.

Interest groups/lobbyists scored 4.8 and executive agency staff 4.0. Regarded as relatively less influential in the process were partisan staff and the media (both 3.6), nonpartisan staff (3.3) and, bringing up the rear, minority party leadership (3.0).

I wonder what the Illinois crosstabs were? For you staffers and former staffers out there, is this about right?

UPDATE: Karl gives us a peek at the Illinois crosstabs, which are not statistically significant since there were so few of them (just 19 out of a nationwide total of more than 1500 - which doesn’t surprise me in the least).

But, for what it’s worth, Illinois respondents did score the majority party leadership somewhat higher at 6.3 on a scale of 1-7. There were only two other major differences in the responses from Illinois compared to the rest of the country: the House was regarded as more influential than the Senate, and the influence of partisan staff was ranked considerably higher.

Staff has enormous influence in Illinois, so that’s definitely on the money.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

8 Comments
  1. - anon - Wednesday, Jun 28, 06 @ 10:09 am:

    I’d bump up the majority party leadership all the way to a 7 in Illinois. Also, I would lower the committee chairs # as they are pretty much just carrying out orders from above anyway.


  2. - ZC - Wednesday, Jun 28, 06 @ 10:26 am:

    It may not be possible to get significant results for just Illinois - though I wish! With an N of 1500, assuming they polled all 50 legislatures then that is a measly N of 30 for Illinois, for a big margin of error. Granted IL is a big state, so more staffers were probably sampled, but my guess is well under 100. It would still be fascinating to see the crosstabs, but you wouldn’t want to place much trust in them.


  3. - VanillaMan - Wednesday, Jun 28, 06 @ 11:46 am:

    Beware of results like this. When you have four options coming out about the same, you should consider something wrong. The respondents didn’t feel like they could answer the question authoritatively, or the question wasn’t understood, or the ranking was too confusing, something.

    If you drop the whole ranking part of this story, there isn’t any news there.


  4. - Reddbyrd - Wednesday, Jun 28, 06 @ 12:01 pm:

    Wonder how the minority party got so high —3?
    Seems like 0.5 wonder be about right.


  5. - ron - Wednesday, Jun 28, 06 @ 3:21 pm:

    i would like to know who advised durbin and obama to vote no on allowing the flag to be burned. the constitution protects free speech not free expression. they surely were not listening to the citizens of illinois who support the amendment by a wide majority. funny how durbin and obama can quote polls showing over 50% of people are unhappy with iraq as justification to pull out, while neglecting polls with upwards of 70%+ supporting the flag amendment.


  6. - anon - Wednesday, Jun 28, 06 @ 4:11 pm:

    This is a data set that argues against legislative term limits. The 4.8 goes through the roof without legislative leadership.


  7. - Karl Kurtz - Wednesday, Jun 28, 06 @ 4:19 pm:

    Thanks for running this piece. Whenever you mention our NCSL blog, The Thicket, our page views go way up.

    Since there seems to be a lot of interest in this in Illinois judging by the comments, I took a look at the Illinois cross tabs for the survey. Unfortunately, ZC is more than right in his comment above: Illinois was substantially under-represented in the survey because we got only 19 responses (out of 1,522 nationally) from the state. So you can’t take much stock in the cross tabs. But, for what it’s worth, Illinois respondents did score the majority party leadership somewhat higher at 6.3 on a scale of 1-7. There were only two other major differences in the responses from Illinois compared to the rest of the country: the House was regarded as more influential than the Senate, and the influence of partisan staff was ranked considerably higher.


  8. - the Other Anonymous - Thursday, Jun 29, 06 @ 8:55 am:

    It’s not surprising that staff in Illinois are considered more powerful than in other states. Legislative staff in Springfield are (is?) not independent — they simply extensions of the party leadership.

    Since party, particularly majority party, leadership has a virtual lock on any legislative activity, staff has strong derivative powers. I bet that most people around the rail think that a legislator’s personal staff — the administrative assistant in the district office — doesn’t have much power at all.


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